Less than a decade ago, the words "Angelina Jolie" and "role model" would probably not have been paired up too often in the same sentence. The actress' philanthropy and career were overshadowed by her controversial, tabloid-loved relationship, and while it wasn't necessarily fair, one only has to pull out their old "Team Aniston" t-shirts to remember how pervasive the ideology was at the time. Fast forward a couple of years, however, and the star, thanks to a loving marriage, endless humanitarian trips, and tireless work on behalf of women, is no less than an icon for many women, and her latest effort, a New York Times op-ed revealing that Jolie has removed her ovaries, proves why.
In the editorial, published early Tuesday morning, Jolie announced that she'd undergone preventive surgery to remove both her ovaries and her fallopian tubes because of her BRCA1 gene mutation, a signifier of increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Like her 2013 op-ed announcing her preventative double mastectomy, Tuesday's piece was simply told, informative, and incredibly important, and just as her previous piece inspired many women to get tested for the BRCA1 gene, this one will surely encourage those at risk for cancer to consider all their options, as well.
It's yet another example of Jolie's fearless leadership, her willingness and ability to, in both her actions on- and off-screen, inspire countless fans to follow in her footsteps, whether it's in regards to helping those less fortunate or confronting the reality of their health. In my mind, at least, there's no question about it: Angelina Jolie is Hollywood's best role model for women. Here's how:
When She Opened Up About Her Health — The First Time
The reactions to Jolie's newest reveal may be strong, but it's nothing compared to the response garnered by her first op-ed, which revealed her mastectomy and discussed her risk for developing cancer. The announcement by one of the biggest celebrities in the world that she'd undergone major surgery shocked many, but it inspired more; in the months that followed, studies reported that the "Angelina Jolie effect" had significantly increased the numbers of women who underwent genetic counseling. Because of the star, many women assessed their own risks, gained awareness of their options, and took actions that might've saved their lives.
When She Spoke Up About Rape And Assault
Jolie's tireless advocacy for humanitarian issues stretches the gamut, from refugee rights to child immigration, and her work on behalf of victims of rape and assault has been no less impressive. In 2012, she created the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, influencing the policies of the UN Security Council, and two years later, she co-chaired the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Her speech at the event was haunting and memorable, encouraging listeners to take action and reduce the stigma around rape.
When She Created Europe's First Center to Fight Violence Against Women
Her words were moving, but her actions spoke louder; in February, Jolie launch the Centre on Women, Peace and Security, a London-based institution aimed at improving women's rights across the globe. As she stated, the centre's goal is for “the empowerment of women to be the highest priority for the finest minds, in the best academic institutions.”
When She Adopted A Child Alone
Although Jolie had intended to raise Maddox, an orphan adopted from Cambodia, with her husband Billy Bob Thornton, the couple's split didn't deter her from taking on the enormous task. She adopted Maddox alone and raised him as a single mom until she began dating Brad Pitt.
When She Directed Two Major Movies
Female directors are hard to find in Hollywood, and Jolie's transition to filmmaker hasn't come without its bumps. Yet already, she's made two war dramas, In the Land of Blood and Honey and Unbroken, the latter of which garnered her a Critics' Choice nomination. Currently, she's finalizing work on the romantic drama By the Sea, and is said to be taking on Africa, a biopic, next. It's a remarkable, inspiring career change.
When She Took On Feminist Roles
From the manipulative, complex Lisa in Girl, Interrupted to the action hero Lara Croft in the eponymous series to the evil Disney villain in Maleficent , Jolie has made a habit of taking on wonderfully feminist roles whenever she's given the chance.
When She Celebrated Her Mother's Legacy
Jolie was extremely close to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died in 2007 from ovarian cancer, and while accepting a humanitarian honor at the 2013 Governors Awards, she spoke of the enormous influence her mother has had on her life. She gave the actress "love and confidence," said Jolie, "and above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others.” Later in the speech, Jolie discussed how her mother's encouragement led to her to take action in helping those less fortunate, and how she knew that if her mother had been alive to see her accept the award for her efforts, she would have been "very proud."
Images: Getty Images; Disney